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Ultramicroscopy. 2011 Feb;111(3):191-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ultramic.2010.11.027. Epub 2010 Dec 1.

Minimization of focused ion beam damage in nanostructured polymer thin films.

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Department of Materials Science and Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.


Focused ion beam (FIB) instruments have proven to be an invaluable tool for transmission electron microscopy (TEM) sample preparation. FIBs enable relatively easy and site-specific cross-sectioning of different classes of materials. However, damage mechanisms due to ion bombardment and possible beam heating effects in materials limit the usefulness of FIBs. Materials with adequate heat conductivity do not suffer from beam heating during FIB preparation, and artifacts in materials such as metals and ceramics are primarily limited to defect generation and Ga implantation. However, in materials such as polymers or biological structures, where heat conductivity is low, beam heating can also be a problem. In order to examine FIB damage in polymers we have undertaken a systematic study by exposing sections of a PS-b-PMMA block copolymer to the ion beam at varying beam currents and sample temperatures. The sections were then examined by TEM and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and analyzed using electron energy loss spectroscopy (EELS). Our empirical results show beam heating in polymers due to FIB preparation can be limited by maintaining a low beam current (≤100pA) during milling.

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